Authoritarian governments and sketchy statistics

As if research on war, development and human rights in the 3rd World was not already difficult enough, this piece from the Guardian makes a pretty good case that perhaps we should not take many of the statistics available on authoritarian countries too seriously.

I think that we political scientists generally know this, but it’s very easy to just download a dataset from the World Bank or the UN and run the analysis without seriously thinking about the validity of the numbers we are crunching.  Unfortunately, there is no easy way to fix this problem, particularly since these regimes often have incentives to keep the numbers fuzzy.  This underscores the continuing importance of qualitative research in comparative politics, not only because its known benefits like depth, but also because it serves as a useful way to check out the validity of the results of statistical studies.

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About Jake Wobig

I teach international relations and comparative politics at Wingate University in Wingate, North Carolina
This entry was posted in Comparative Politics, Methodology, Philosophy of Science and Epistemology, Statistics. Bookmark the permalink.

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